When residents of Barnaby Woods in upper Northwest Washington praise the walkability of their neighborhood, many of them mean for dogs.
“This is the best dog-walking neighborhood in D.C., without doubt,” said Molly Holt, who has lived there since 1994. Amy Schear, a 26-year resident, adds: “I have met so many people by walking my dog. You can walk everywhere. You can take them in the woods, or you have sidewalk dogs.”
Those pet-friendly woods are found in Rock Creek Park, which borders the neighborhood to its east. Locals cherish that park access. Sarah Koch, who has lived there since March, says that she and her husband are both runners. “We love being able to jump on the trails,” she said. Schear says she drives through the park to get home from downtown. “I think it gives you the best of both worlds,” she said. “You’re living in the District of Columbia, but you’re in the suburbs.”
Schear raised two children in the neighborhood, which remains child-friendly today. That’s the primary quality that drew Koch, who was moving to the area from Seattle. Because she and her husband had lived in the Brookland neighborhood in Northeast from 2000 to 2002, they felt tied to the District, but they also felt that their old neighborhood did not suit their current needs.
“What can we afford in a neighborhood that will hold three active kids, a large dog, two frogs and a guinea pig?” said Koch. She describes her first visit: “It was around 4 o’clock, and I saw a girl my son’s age riding her scooter down the middle of the street. It just seemed so quiet. Kids ride their bikes and walk to school.”
Many of them are on their way to Lafayette Elementary, another of the neighborhood’s big draws. According to the D.C. school system’s Web site, 91 percent of the school’s students met or exceeded math standards last year. The school is also home to special programs such as an anti-bullying “peace class” recently profiled in The Washington Post. “We are big believers in public school,” said Koch, whose children range from kindergarten to fourth grade. “We started researching schools, and we saw Lafayette.”
Real estate agent Kimberly Cestari has lived in Barnaby Woods for 14 years. She also sells houses there, and she says the leafy scenery is part of the neighborhood’s appeal. “When you’re driving down the streets in Barnaby Woods,” she said, “we have these beautiful massive trees, which add to the property value, because they create a feeling of a well established community.”
Most of the houses are 1930s brick Colonials, with some 1920s houses sprinkled in, she says. Many homeowners add on, although local laws dictate that houses can’t take up more than 40 percent of a lot, which “allows for it not being overdeveloped,” said Cestari. She points out that the floor plans of many Colonials make it easy for owners to create a “modern-day living space,” which includes an enlarged kitchen that opens to a family room. In her own home, a former galley kitchen has been converted into a butler’s pantry and storage space.
Homes in Barnaby Woods are expensive; Cestari says that the three houses currently on the market are priced from $825,000 to $1.16 million. Besides the high prices, the limited public transportation keeps some buyers away. The closest Metro station, Friendship Heights, is roughly two miles from the neighborhood. Cestari says people who are comfortable with taking the bus to Metro find it convenient, since Metrobus serves the area with stops on Utah Avenue.
There are a few other inconveniences. “We do lose power a lot,” said Schear. “People were passionate about not cutting down their trees, but we were at risk for losing our power and having them fall. In fact, the Pepco commercial has my neighbor’s house in it,” she said.
Holt agrees. “We’ve had lots of hurricane parties. There’s a long history of the power going out. We used to be the neighborhood that crashes first, and sometimes we would lose power for no reason at all,” she said, noting that the power situation was addressed after the winter storms of 2010, and improved so much that Barnaby did not lose power in this summer’s derecho. The neighborhood did lose power during Hurricane Sandy, Schear says.
Even if the improved service means fewer hurricane parties, Barnaby Woods’ traditions — and canine-centrism — continue even as times and families change. For years, Schear says, she costumed her children for an annual Halloween party and parade. Today her children are 19 and 23, but she has figured out a way to participate.
“I still dress my dogs up for it,” she said.
Eliza McGraw is a freelance writer.
ZIP CODE: 20015
BOUNDARIES: Aberfoyle Place to the north, Oregon Avenue to the east, Tennyson Street to the south and Western Avenue to the west.
SCHOOLS: Lafayette Elementary, Alice Deal Middle and Woodrow Wilson High.
HOME SALES: According to real estate agent Kimberly Cestari, 26 houses sold in the past year, at prices ranging from $725,000 to $1.2 million. Three homes are now on the market, priced from $825,000 to $1.16 million.
WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE: Rock Creek Park, Lafayette Park, Lafayette Elementary School, St. John’s College High School. Shops on Connecticut Avenue are 11 / 2 miles away.
WITHIN 15 MINUTES BY CAR: Friendship Heights, downtown Silver Spring, downtown Bethesda, Tenleytown.
TRANSIT: Metrobus and Ride-On provide bus service, including routes to the Friendship Heights Metrorail station (Red Line).